Volume 10, Issue 4 - July/August 2008

Side Lites
guest opinion

How to Drive Traffic to Your Shop
by Bob Theriot

Question: Hi Bob, I just opened a brand-new shop in an industrial area and it is hidden from sight. The main streets and intersections are far away and my sign can’t be seen. What’s the best way to get the word out about my location? Keep in mind that I don’t have a lot of money to spend because my advertising budget is on a shoestring. Thanks! —David J., New Orleans
Answer: David, this is a common problem for many auto glass shop owners. Not everyone can afford prime retail space, especially when you’re just starting a brand-new business. Until then, you’re going to need try to get the word out about your location without spending a small fortune.

The first thing you should do is to hold an open house. Although you want everyone in the community to know about your business, you’re going to have to proceed in stages. 

Stage One
Focus your energy on the businesses that are near your location. Send out a postcard to every business within a 5-mile radius of your shop. Let them know that you are holding a private open house for businesses only. Hold the open house during regular business hours. Midday, close to the lunch hour, is a good time. Serve finger foods and dessert and make sure to give out door prizes. Companies of all sizes will donate small gifts in exchange for a mention on a flyer or banner that you can post at the event. Make sure you have the guests drop their business cards in a fish bowl. 

The real purpose for doing this is to collect names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Later, you’ll be able to send out coupons or other offers for residual sales. 

Stage Two
Once you’ve held your business open house, you can focus your energy on the residential or retail consumers in your area. This time, send out postcards to a couple of zip codes or hire a student to pass out door-hangers in nearby neighborhoods.

The door hangers are inexpensive if you make them on your computer and print them out yourself. There also are many do-it-yourself printing businesses that specialize in these types of printing projects. Just check your local yellow pages. 

I also recommend you rent a jumping balloon and make sure you mention this fact on your door hanger. This is inviting to busy, on-the-go parents with kids. Once the event has started, the jumping balloon also acts as an attention grabber to cars and pedestrians passing by. The best day of the week for an open house geared toward retail is Saturdays. Serve hot dogs and soda and collect names and e-mail addresses just like in Stage One. Offer an event special like “Half-Off Chip Repairs” for the first hour or “X Percent Off Any Glass Replacement.” 

You don’t have to spend a lot of money and the goodwill and contacts you make are well worth the expense you do have. Don’t expect to make a lot of sales during the event, but rather view this as a marketing opportunity to let the public know that your business exists.Good luck. 

Bob Theriot Jr. is the author of “Pounding The Pavement – Tools, Techniques and Inspiration for Succeeding in Sales.” He also serves as sales & marketing manager for Southwest Auto Glass in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached via e-mail at bob@southwestautoglass.com. Mr. Theriot’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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